NEW PALTZ – The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year for 2012-13 is Dr. Hamilton Stapell of the History Department. The announcement was made by Dean James Schiffer at a meeting of LA&S faculty on May 1, 2013.
A specialist on the history of modern Spain and Europe, Stapell received his doctorate in history from the University of California at San Diego in 2004. He was hired in 2004 as an adjunct professor, and in Fall 2008, after two years of teaching full-time at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was promoted to assistant professor. Over the last three years he has offered 10 different courses in the History Departmentand Honors Program, and will teach an online course in the summer for the Evolutionary Studies Program.
In each of his courses, Professor Stapell strives to create true student-centered classrooms. He constantly experiments with new teaching methods in order to maximize student engagement and learning, including After Action Reports following discussions, comprehensive midterm evaluations, student-led discussions and oral presentations, and the integration of online resources in class.
Stapell was nominated for this award by Professor Susan Lewis, a former recipient of the LA&S Teacher of the Year Award. “Dr. Stapell stands out as an extraordinary model of the teacher/scholar,” said Lewis in a prepared statement. “His thoughtful and creative approach to the art of college teaching is evident in his teaching philosophy, syllabi, and course materials. His effectiveness is reflected in numerous peer evaluations, and the consistently appreciative student response his courses have inspired in the years he has been teaching at New Paltz.”
Last spring, Lewis observed one of Professor Stapell’s upper-level history courses, “The Americanization of Europe.” Despite all the wonderful things she had heard about his teaching, the class she observed exceeded her highest expectations. It was, she writes, “the most exciting, and most challenging, single class I have ever observed at SUNY New Paltz.”
In writing in support of this nomination, History Department Chair Lee Bernstein singles out for praise Stapell’s enthusiasm: “His enthusiasm is not merely a high-energy performance, but an opportunity to draw students into subject matter and research processes that Stapell so clearly loves. [One student commented that] ‘Professor Stapell always makes you feel confident when you answer a question in class and is extremely kind.’ Many others noted the extent to which Stapell got them involved in the material. Even when criticizing Stapell for grades that were ‘severely too strict,’ one student noted that he ‘created incredible community and did a good job making the class a safe space in which to share ideas.’”
According to Schiffer, “It is a great pleasure to honor Dr. Stapell for his excellence in teaching at SUNY New Paltz. He joins a distinguished group of colleagues who have been honored with this award in past years.”